by Shaun Milne
PREGNANT women across Scotland were urged to get vaccinated against the swine flu virus last night after a 17-year-old mum-to-be became its latest victim.
In a statement issued just before 1pm, the Scottish Government confirmed that the teenage girl – who was identified only as being from the Borders area – had been suffering from the H1N1 virus and died within the past 24-hours.
No further details were issued officially, but it was understood a report had gone to the Procurator Fiscal charged with investigating all sudden deaths in the area.
She was the 15th person in Scotland to die from the virus.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon broke off from the SNP’s annual gathering at Inverness to plead with all expectant women to seek help confirming that they are among those most at risk.
With the first supplies of the vaccine due to be issued later this month, she said they would be prioritised because of their conditions.
She said: “The death of this young mother-to-be and her baby is deeply saddening and my thoughts are with her family and friends.
“Medical experts have been telling us that pregnant women are more vulnerable to developing complications after contracting the virus.
“For this reason, they will be among the priority groups for vaccination when the H1N1 vaccine becomes available later this month.
“I would urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated to ensure the maximum protection for themselves and their babies.
“While there is no evidence to suggest that the virus is becoming any more dangerous for the public at large, this tragic death highlights that some groups are at greater risk and should take up the offer of vaccination.”
NHS Borders communication team based at Borders General Hospital in Melrose issued a statement confirming that the unborn child had also died.
A spokesman said: “We can confirm that a sudden death occurred at the Borders General Hospital on the Morning of Wednesday the 14th of October 2009.
“The death, which is H1N1-related, was a young woman who was pregnant.
“Unfortunately the baby did not survive.
“In all such cases where an unexpected death occurs in hospital, a post mortem examination will be carried out to determine the exact cause of death. The matter will be passed onto the Procurator Fiscal.”
Dr Eric Baijal Director of Public Health added “This is a tragic event and our deepest sympathies are with the family.”
John Lamont, Scottish Conservative MSP for Roxburgh & Berwickshire in the Borders, said: “My heart goes out to the young woman’s parents, family and friends. It is going to be a very, very difficult time for them and I hope they receive all the support possible.”
Government estimates suggest some 12,500 people are likely to have contracted the virus in the past few days.
There has been a jump in the number of positive cases from 16.4 per cent last week to a worrying 29.3 no according to the latest figures out today.
Latest figures also show a rise in consultations for flu like illnesses from 86.1 per 100,000 people to 106.4
So far the deaths of 15 people have been linked to influenza A with at least 315 needing treated in hospital since the start of the outbreak.
MSP Sturgeon said the NHS in Scotland faced being stretched hugely over the coming weeks and said it was up to the public to play its part in taking precautions to help ease that burden.
She said: “Flu epidemics by their very nature are unpredictable and weekly increases and decreases are to be expected.
“Even if H1N1 continues to be a relatively mild virus for most people affected, its effects on the health service and on the wider community could be highly disruptive and we cannot be complacent about the threat presented by the outbreak.
“Hospitalisations continue to increase and this means that it is even more vital that those deemed at risk do all they can to protect themselves.
“Vaccination is the best defence we have against the H1N1 virus and Scotland is preparing very well for the first phase of the vaccination programme which is due to start later this month.”
She urged anyone concerned about their symptoms to contact their GP or call NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24.”